Washington (CNN) - For a man who long championed free markets, the irony of being known as the architect of the greatest government intervention into markets in history sits just fine with former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
Paulson says he'd rather be the architect of the bailouts than the Treasury secretary who presided over the second Great Depression.
"The president in his state of the union address captured the mood of the country when he said Republicans hate these, Democrats hate these, I hate them, and just let me tell you I hated them," Paulson says. "But they were much better than the alternative and you know what they worked. Because we needed working with imperfect tools and authorities ... we were able to cobble together enough to prevent the system from collapsing and avoid disaster."
Paulson recounts the moments when Citigroup was failing and he was in Santa Barbara, walking through the Reagan Library - "that temple of free-market thinking" and was struck by the irony of the moment.